THRIVE Goal – Moving Towards Positive Body Image

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My “style” for the last seven years has involved maternity wear, breastfeeding tees, comfortable jeans and what ever hand-me-downs the beautiful women in my life would graciously pass on to me.  I was blessed to receive those garments because during those years I was not in a position where I could purchase new clothes.  But even if I could have, I did not want to buy clothes that would fit the way I currently looked.  So, my wardrobe was a mishmash of roomy garments, completely unreflective of my personality and tastes.   Somewhere along the line, I reluctantly accepted this new “look” as my own – a factor I believe contributed to my loss of identity during motherhood.

Now that I’m moving on from my childbearing years, there have been a few occasions recently where I have needed to dress up a bit.  I have had to borrow clothing from family and friends.  My entire wardrobe is casual.  And that’s probably talking it up a bit.  How did this happen?  When did I become another one of those mothers I used to see at the shopping centre and feel sorry for because they had given up on themselves and their appearance?  So often while getting ready in the morning the phrase “that’ll do” has zipped through my mind.  I say “zipped”, because 0.5 of a second is all the time available to me to think about my appearance before an argument breaks out, a baby begins crying or a smashing sound can be heard from somewhere within the house…

I have often thought that how we present ourselves to the world is not that important.  It’s what’s inside that really counts, right?  Now I realise that I’ve been wrong.  How we look is important.  But NOT because of what other people will think of us, but how we feel about ourselves.  I will admit that the idea of dressing up to go out had me in tears, sure I had nothing to wear, but it actually revealed a deeper issue below the surface.  My desire to disappear into the background at social events or when photos are taken pointed to one thing – I felt awful about my post-baby body, and in turn, myself.

I am not overweight, I am in the healthy weight range according to my BMI, but carrying 4 babies has taken it’s toll on my body and my body-image.   My hubby helped me to realise that my thinking was the problem.   I had gotten myself stuck in a cycle of thinking that went something like this:  I have nothing nice to wear… I feel so frumpy and ugly…but I don’t want to buy anything that will fit me as I look now because I don’t like how I look now…so I’ll wait until I look the way I want to… in the meantime, I have nothing nice to wear…

My hubby went on to say “Surely you’re not the first woman in the world to ever want to dress to down play a post baby body?  What do other women wear? ”

Do you ever get so caught up in your own thinking (or in my case, wallowing) that you practically refuse to try to find a solution?  Looks like I do!  Basically my hubby suggested to go buy something flattering that will accentuate the aspects of my figure that I do like, and downplay those features I don’t like so much.  Sounded simple enough.

Then my wonderful sister sent me a link to shopyourshape.  It’s a website that helps you to determine your body shape using the Body Shape Calculator, and then explains in very clear, simple language the styles of garments that suit your shape best.  There are hints and tips on when to use patterns, block colours as well as light and dark shades.  There are diagrams to illustrate the garment styles that will look best on you.

My shape is “pear shape,” and while reading through the information on how to dress my shape I had an epiphany.  This sentence was the trigger:

The key to dressing a pear body type is to enhance and add volume (or the illusion of volume) to your upper body while emphasizing your waist and de-emphasizing your lower body to create a balanced, hourglass appearance.

I suddenly realised that I have had the same “pear” body shape since I was a teenager.   I have struggled to accept and love this shape.  I have operated under the misconception since my teens that I could change my body shape if only I’d loose more weight, or put some on.  But 20 years later I can see that it won’t work for me.  Whether I’ve been size 16 or size 10 (and I’ve been those and everything in between), I remain the same shape, just a larger or smaller, flabbier or more toned version of it.

This year – in my year to thrive – I am going to grow in loving my body shape.  I am going to accept that I am pear shaped.  The idea of being pear shaped has always sounded a bit frumpy-dumpy to me.  So I’m going to change my thinking from sneering at the soggy, easily bruised notion of being pear shaped.  I’ll embrace the sweetness of having a curvy lower half and highlight the crisp, neatness of a small waist.  Seeing as there’s plenty of easy ways to “add volume” to my upper body with clothing, I am beginning to see how I can use clothing to dress to flatter my body type.  I want this year to have lots of days when I look in the mirror and feel good about the reflection I see – not by dramatically changing anything but my own perception of my body.

Maybe you’re willing to come along on the journey with me?  Do you know your body shape and how to dress to flatter it?  Do you have any websites that have helped you love the skin you’re in?

I’d love to hear from you.

M.xx

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3 responses »

  1. Your post really struck a chord. Clearly you’re a lot younger than me (I’m 51), but it has taken me a very long time to start accepting my body the way it is. Since I was 10, my mother had me on diets. I wasn’t fat, I realise from looking back at those photos, I was just a normal chubby 10-year old who still had some growing taller to do – by the time I was 14, I was the tallest (and slimmest) girl in my class. My mother was (and still is) obsessed with physical appearance, and I suppose she was passing that obsession onto me. I’m not having a go at her for this, I realise it was (and still is) very natural for things to work that way with daughters. Not to mention the pressure of society’s norms and ideals.
    Anyway, I’ll stop rambling. What I just want to say is that, now I am 51, and for reasons that I don’t really fathom, I no longer obsess over my body’s flaws. I may not have legs like Cindy Crawford, but it’s not like I want to be a model so what the hell, I can live with them. I never had much of a waist, but am otherwise relatively shapely (being tall and having long legs helps), and always covered my upper arms in t-shirts or shawls because they weren’t toned like Michelle Obama’s – but somehow that also isn’t so serious any more. I’ve just started wearing sleeveless dresses and tops again, and my partner says I look lovely – so that’s good enough for me.
    I wish my self-image had never been so dependent on my perception of my body – maybe that’s what getting a bit older does for one…you get a bit more confidence in other areas of life, so the well-rounded bum or imperfect ankles matter so much less.
    A therapist once suggested, when I was about 30, to find five things about myself physically that I really liked. That excluded internal organs, by the way! (“Gosh, I really love the way my spleen looks”?!). I found it very difficult to do, and ended up with silly things like ear lobes and toenails. I’m pretty sure YOU can find five things easily 🙂
    Now, go get some new clothes. Be beautiful. 🙂

  2. Thanks for sharing part of your journey here, Nice piece of work. It sounds like a tough journey, but that you’re also on the path to a healthy body image. Thanks too for your encouragement and support. It was unexpected, but very much appreciated . Looking forward to sharing about my new fashion finds with you soon!

  3. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to hire a stylist, who would come and shop with you and find all of your outfits – perfect for your shape! Same goes with colors, some colours look fabulous, others make me look gaunt.

    I loved your post, and can really relate to it. I’m currently breastfeeding, and completely out of shape compared to before. I’m not sure what to do – I’m sort of in limbo, waiting for things to go back to how they used to be. I don’t want to buy clothes that will fit me now, because I don’t want to stay this way.

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